28 August 2008

What A Time To Be Pro-Motorist.

With London pollution threatening not just lives but taxpayers with EU fines, Boris Johnson's scrapping of the western congestion charge, scrapping of the CO2 charge on gas guzzlers (and the £500m it raised to be spent on cycling projects), his lack of enthusiasm for the London Emissions Zone and his 'rephasing' of traffic lights and opposition to any traffic reduction schemes in Parliament Square or elsewhere, it seems pollution and deaths are certain to be increased not be reduced. This comment sums it all up for me:-
"It's not all bad. At least we can escape from the smog to the filtered air of our un-congestion charged Porsches and laugh as we mow down choking pedestrians struggling to cross the rephased traffic lights. What ho!"

16 comments:

  1. *sigh*

    1. Sod EU fines. The French never pay them so why should we? Bring it on, is all I can say, that will get people's backs up and speed up our inevitable withdrawal.

    2. As to hydrogen cars, all they do is shift the source of pollution - instead of burning fuel on the road, it gets burned in power stations elsewhere to produce the hydrogen which can only be transported at massive cost to where it is needed (the full cost is horrendous). GB is a small and windy island in the middle of the North Atlantic, don't forget.

    3. Martin Cassini, leading anti-traffic lights campaigner (and man behind this site) lives in London and is a cyclist.

    4. There already are extra taxes on 'gas guzzlers', called fuel duty, VAT on fuel, VED, restriction on tax deductions (capital allowances and finance lease restrictions) for 'expensive cars' (costing over £12k) and savage benefit-in-kind rules.

    5. Traffic lights cause just as much frustration and annoyance to bus passengers as to car drivers as to they do to pedestrians who have to wait for a minute or so until they can cross the road.

    6. All things being equal, not having a Western CCC zone increases land values there, so Land Value Tax, as ever, will sort them out. In any event, if extending the CC zone is so great for air quality, how come the people in West London aren't gagging for it? (sic) Surely, they spend half an hour a day in their cars and twelve hours at home?

    I hope I've covered everything there.

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  2. Mark: I think 'naked' or 'shared' streets are a great idea - they reduce vehicle speeds naturally...but 'rephasing' traffic lights as Boris Johnson has done is just anti-pedestrian and pro-motorist - it increases speeds and encourages more traffic. I am all for getting rid of traffic lights altogether but I would worry for blind pedestrians.

    Cassini's dig at the congestion charge doesn't make much sense either - the number of vehicles has been reduced which has allowed more time for pedestrians and cyclists (i.e less congestion for them) and more time for Thames Water (and others) to dig up roads, fix leaks and save us millions of tons of wasted water and consequently money and energy. Livingstone decided to use the drop in vehicle numbers to relieve this pedestrian/cyclist/water waste congestion rather than vehicle congestion which remained static. He could easily have decided to use the congestion charge to favour motorists but I think Livingstone was right to encourage other forms of traffic. Note: London buses benefit from 'intelligent' traffic lights that change when they approach (pdf p2).

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  3. As for your other points - agreed on hydrogen (although it could be produced by renewable 'green' sources and save pollution that way), the extra taxes on gas guzzlers are currently too little, and until we have a LVT...

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  4. Neil, I'm disturbed that someone such as yourself, who favours state control and regulation in every aspect of our lives, is prepared to let the invisible hand of the free market work and remove street signage!

    "All power to the drivers"..

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  5. *sigh*

    1) more time for Thames Water (and others) to dig up roads, fix leaks and save us millions of tons of wasted water and consequently money and energy.

    If you lived or worked in London, you'd know that Thames Water have cheerfully continued with digging up streets and replacing pipes. In any event, there is a straight trade off between building more reservoirs and stopping leaks. If nothing else, stopping the leaks is one of the many factors that reduce the growth of trees ondon (which look nice, improve air quality etc).

    2) London buses benefit from 'intelligent' traffic lights that change when they approach

    Obviously you haven't been on a London bus for a while. Do these traffic lights somehow magically allow them to soar above the cars stuck in front of them?

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  6. *sigh*

    Can you just explain to me how you hydrogen from renewable green sources?

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  7. "Do these traffic lights somehow magically allow them to soar above the cars stuck in front of them?"

    Thats what bus lanes are for, which you also no doubt oppose.

    "Can you just explain to me how you hydrogen from renewable green sources?"

    You need energy to produce hydrogen - but there is nothing to say this cannot be produced from hydro-electric, tidal or wind sources. In fact it might be a good way to store wind energy.

    "Thames Water have cheerfully continued with digging up streets and replacing pipes"

    Boris has just helpfully approved a new anti-environmental energy guzzling de-salination plant that will enable Thames to boost profits by leaving pipes leaking away - so expect a lot less digging in the future. As for trees, from that article it seems fixed leaks are the least of the problem. I am sure there are better ways of watering trees than losing millions of gallons of water from leaks out of our already overstretched water supply.

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  8. That's what bus lanes are for, which you also no doubt oppose.

    I have said a zillion times (as somebody who uses and benefits from subsidised public transport in London, as well as paying for it via the taxes I pay) that I am in favour of public transport (and if you can point to anywhere where I might have said that I oppose bus lanes, per se, then please tell me), so let me rephrase that question:

    "Bearing in mind that most streets in London are very narrow with one lane in each direction, do these traffic lights somehow magically allow them to soar above the cars stuck in front of them?"

    Follow up question:
    "Do you live or work in London?"

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  9. Mark, apologies for saying you probably oppose bus lanes, you clearly use public transport. I now visit London about once a month (it used to be once a week) and use the tube and buses every time I visit.

    Of course bus lanes can only help buses on the main arterial roads and they do get caught up in traffic on some roads but overall the increased time for pedestrians to cross roads is worth this. Buses are more likely to be caught up in traffuc outside of the congestion zone. Within the zone most traffic is bus or taxi so unaffected. Buses can be slow in London (still faster than they were before the zone) and bus use under Ken soared (against decline in the rest of the country) and he made walking and cycling much more attractive at the same time while reducing car use. I think that confirms that Ken had got it about right. I think Boris's strategy will increase both pollution, congestion and road deaths - it will take a few years to see the stats to confirm this, but I make this prediction now in the sad knowledge I am probably correct.

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  10. Firstly Neil, I commute to the centre of London every day, and whatever you think of cars, there is precious little spare capacity on public transport - none on my train anyway. It is always on the brink of collapse. One train breaks down in Norwood Junction, and the whole thing f***s up.

    "I think 'naked' or 'shared' streets are a great idea - they reduce vehicle speeds naturally..."

    Correct!

    "...but 'rephasing' traffic lights as Boris Johnson has done is just anti-pedestrian and pro-motorist - it increases speeds and encourages more traffic"

    The lights need rephasing because they cause massive traffic jams the way they're set now. If you care about pollution, you should bear in mind that congestion exacerbates pollution. Also, if you make the lights red in every direction, you encourage people to jump the lights, because they figure it's safe to do so. The current light phasing is not pro-pedestrian, it is merely anti-motorist, so people like you can snigger at the misfortune of others. The problem with lefties is thst they (you) like to put people in different groups and play them off against each other, but what you need to understand is that I am a pedestrian, a motorist and a public transport user all together, so I'm not joining one of your groups.

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  11. TT, exactly. I am also primarily a pedestrian (with two young kids) and a public transport user, but I did buy a car recently (11 years old and second hand BTW) so I can see all sides of the debate.

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  12. MW,

    indeed. I think Neil sees this issue as a zero sum game, where any easing of the problems on the roads is a defeat for some other faction - the disadvantaged poor I suppose - as if having a car makes you a rich man.

    Unfortunately for Neil, screwing the motorists by causing needless congestion does not only screw the motorist, but pretty much everyone. Neil, your lovely bus can't get to its bus lane, because it's snarled up 50 yards in solid traffic, caused in part by the bus lane. (This is not a blanket description of bus lanes, but it certainly applies on the westside of Peckham Rye.)

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  13. I would ban cars completely from town centres (1 mile radius small towns to maybe 5 mile radius central London). Are you telling me that would discourage cycling and pedestrians? Imagine how pollution free the air would be?

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  14. Quite right, and I have written a blog post to follow this up, at http://peezedtee.blogspot.com/2008/09/boris-johnson-motorcar-and-destruction.html

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  15. Neil,

    "Are you telling me that would discourage cycling and pedestrians?"

    You've changed the subject somewhat, so I haven't told you this.

    Banning things, in this instance cars from town centres, no doubt warms your collectivist heart, but have you thought out the consequences? Most likely there'd be a massive increase in congestion outside the zone, which would increase pollution and cause longer journeys. Out-of-town developments would take away trade from shops in the town centre and cause it to decay into a scary ghost town after dark.

    Anyway, I'm not sure you're committed to these ideas. You just want to find a reason to attack Boris Johnson.

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  16. TT - "Out-of-town developments would take away trade from shops in the town centre and cause it to decay into a scary ghost town after dark".

    There is no more scary a ghost-town than Newtown on the road into Birmingham and yet there are thousands of cars driving through it every hour.

    Birmingham was sadly built for the motorcar - flyovers and subways and massive surburban sprawl everywhere and it has left large areas of inner Birmingham wastelands of polluted decay (which is why I and many thousands like me are deserting the West Midlands) . At night public transport is near impossible and you end up either stuck in some boring suburb with nothing to do desperately trying to avoid the violent trouble making bored youths or worse stuck in some dangerous polluted hellhole cut off by main roads choked with traffic driving past at high speed.

    Cars can be wonderful things but we have to make alternatives more attractive if we are not to let the car destroy communities.

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